TN Voices: Tennessee has a behavioral healthcare crisis | News


NASHVILLE (WSMV) -The pandemic is taking a huge toll on the mental health of thousands. It has created a shortage in the number of behavioral therapists available.

Nali Hodds was headed to UT, about to be on her own at college for the very first time. That is when the symptoms started.

“She started really struggling with anxiety. She was having trouble sleeping, and having trouble concentrating,” said Amy Sulam-Gibbs, Hodd’s mother.

Sulam-Gibbs began looking for a therapist.

“There were no appointments available,” she said. “And it took forever.”

Sulam-Gibbs calls the situation unacceptable since the truth about mental health help is: when you need it, you need it immediately.

“You know, people should be able to easily scroll through google and find a provider that can take care of them, if not that day, that week,” said Sulam-Gibbs.

The CEO of Tennessee Voices, Rikki Harris, said the situation is bleak.

“We are definitely at crisis point with the workforce of behavioral health,” said Harris.

The problem, she said, made much worse by the pandemic, can be deadly.

“What we do know is that suicides are increasing and they have been increasing since the beginning of the pandemic. So yes, I think it is fair to say we are doing life-saving work and it could mean life or death,” said Harris.

It’s why the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is asking the governor for an additional $59 million to recruit, train and retain mental health professionals.

“We want well-trained, well-skilled people who are passionate about this work,” said Harris.

Funding, that for moms like Sulam-Gibbs can’t get approved soon enough.

“Mental health in Tennessee is sucking wind,” said Sulam-Gibbs. “Mental health in Tennessee is underfunded. It’s under-cared for. There are not enough people doing the job and there are not enough people doing the job who are good at it.”

Governor Bill Lee is expected to announce his budget at the end of January.

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